Too often, co-parents put together a Parenting Plan, without a lot of consideration for how to implement the plan. Sometimes one or both co-parents are optimistic and think “we’ll just handle things the way we always have…the parenting plan is just there for back-up if we have problems, and we won’t have problems.”
... in this excellent blog posting, Shannon Balk writes that what causes discord will often also cause “problems." For example, tension can be created when one co-parent starts dating and leverages grandparents for babysitting or hires a babysitter during their own parenting time. (The “right of first refusal” clause is the most easily forgotten!)
With change, comes resistance…particularly for those who have a need for control, or for those who feel they’ve been “one-upped”.
Get Ahead of the Problems
It’s all about implementation. Hopefully you and your co-parent took quality time to put together a parenting plan as part of the finalization of your divorce, and are willing to put more time in for activating your plan. If you adopted a standardized parenting plan, these too require conversation and review. Here are some steps to help you and your co-parent implement your plan:
Plan a meeting where you and your co-parent can review your parenting plan.
Before the meeting, review the plan on your own and note any confusing or vague parts of the plan.
At this meeting, put your emotions aside! This is a plan that concerns your children, and their well-being.
Use the meeting time to come to agreement on the “what if” scenarios that might not be covered in your plan (see above tension points for examples).
Establish a regular plan to keep each other updated on what’s working and what’s not working: a quick text before parenting time transitions, a weekly email or phone call, etc.
These steps and tips can allow for a less painful transition into co-parenting. Don’t underestimate the significance of your parenting plan!